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Q. What is the meaning of the word Pharisee? A. It is derived from the Hebrew word pharash― which means separated.
Q. Why did they assume this name?
A. Because they separated themselves from all other Jews, and made great pretensions to piety and holiness of life.
Q. What was their true character?
A. According to the language of Christ, they were great hypocrites, and assumed their religious profession and appearance as a cloak to conceal their wickedness.
Q. Who were the Sadducees?
A. They were a sect who took their name from Sadoc, their founder, who lived about 200 years before Christ.
Q. Were they numerous?
A. They did not number so many as the Pharisees, but were generally people of wealth.
Q. What were their distinguishing traits?
A. They rejected all the traditions of the Pharisees, and received for their guide only the well authenticated writings of Moses, the great law-giver, and the prophets. They did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, nor in the existence of angels or spirits, and maintained that men ought to serve God from pure love, and not from any hope of reward or fear of punishment.
Q. Who were the Essenes ?
A. They were a small but ancient seet, who are supposed to have much resembled, in their mode of life, the Shakers of our own day.
Q. What account have we of this class of people? A. They are represented as having been the most pure and holy sect among the Jews.
Q. What peculiar tenets did they entertain?
contemplation and silence—that no offering was acceptable to God, but a serene and composed mind, addicted to meditation upon divine things-and that the law of Moses was an allegorical system of spiritual and mysterious truths, in the understanding of which they paid but little regard to the outward letter. Q. Was it a momentous era in the history of the Jews, when Jesus was upon the earth?
A. It was. The sceptre had departed from Judah, according to the ancient prophecy of Jacob, and Shiloah (Christ) had come, to whom the gathering of the people was to be given.
Q. Were the Jews in a very unsettled state at that time?
A. They were. The Roman yoke pressed heavy on their necks, and they were seeking every opportunity to throw it off. Wars, feuds and contentions prevailed on every hand.
Q. What was the general moral condition of the Jews at that day?
A. They were exceedingly corrupt-insomuch that Christ declared they were filling up the measure of their fathers' wickedness.
Q. Did the Redeemer predict great calamities and woes as about to overwhelm the Jewish nation?
A. He did. He declared that there should be "great tribulation," such as had not been since the beginning of the world to that time, nor ever should be again.
Q. In what other language did he refer to these coming woes?
A. Pointing to the massive temple at Jerusalem, which then stood in all its strength and glory, he said, "See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." And when he beheld women following him to his crucifixion and
weeping, he exclaimed, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children."
Q. Did the Saviour sometimes depict the doom about to befall the Jews, in highly figurative language?
A. He did, in repeated instances. He described himself as the Son of man, coming with his angels to judge the world.
Q. Can you repeat such a passage?
A. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matt. xxiv. 29-31.)
Q. Is it not supposed by many that this language refers to a day of judgment in the future world? A. It is.
Q. How do we know that such is not the true application, but that it refers to some great calamity which was then soon to take place?
A. We know this by the language of Jesus, in the same connection-" Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.' (v. 34.)
Q. Do the Scripture writers frequently make use of similar figurative language in describing great national calamities?
A. They do. The prophets predict the overthrow of Babylon, Egypt, and Judea, under the figure of convulsions in the heavenly bodies. (Isa. xiii. 9, 10; Ezek. xxxii. 7,8; Dan. viii. 10; Joel ii. 30, 31.)
Q. Does the Saviour, in any other instance, describe the woes about coming upon the Jews, under the figure of his coming with his angels?
A. He does: "The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels; and then shall he reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." (Matt. xvi. 27, 28.)
Q. Did many of the parables of Jesus refer to this time of "great tribulation," which soon was to overwhelm Jerusalem and all Judea?
A. They did, most evidently.
Q. Did the Redeemer represent these woes in the light of punishments for the national sins of the Israelites ?
A. He did: "That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation." (Matt. xxiii. 35, 36.)
Q. Were these predictions of Christ fulfilled?
Q. How long after the death of Christ?
A. About 40 years.
Q. Where do we find the most authentic account of the woes that then came upon the Jews?
A. In Josephus' history of the wars of the Jews.
Q. Who were the instruments in the hands of God, in the overthrow of the Jews, and the destruction of Jerusalem?
A. The Romans.
Q. What was the occasion of the war between the Jews and the Romans?
A. The former rose in rebellion, and endeavored to regain their national independence. The Roman Emperor, Vespasian, sent against them a large army, under the command of Titus. He entirely surrounded Jerusalem with trenches and walls, so that none of its inhabitants could escape.
Q. Were there more than the usual number of people in Jerusalem, when surrounded by the army of Titus?
A. There were. Vast numbers of Jews had assembled in that city, to celebrate the annual feast of the Passover, who found it impossible to avoid the general overthrow. More than two millions of Jews are supposed to have then been within the walls of Jerusalem.
Q. How long did the siege continue?
A. About six months.
Q. What was the condition of the inhabitants during the siege?
A. They were reduced to the most extreme and hopeless suffering. Multitudes perished with hunger. So great was the famine that the people lived upon one another; and even mothers broiled their own infants and ate them.
Q. What other evils came upon them?
A. The inhabitants were divided into different factions, under separate leaders, and fought each other with desperate fury-thus adding the horrors of internal war to their other afflictions. The multitude of unburied carcasses which filled the streets, corrupted the air, and produced a deadly pestilence, which swept away thousands.